Bulls

Despite trade rumors, they're still here

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Despite trade rumors, they're still here

This season will decide what kind of goalie Corey Crawford will be. Is he the kid who put up impressive numbers as a rookie two seasons ago and outplayed Roberto Luongo in the playoffs? Or is it the slumping sophomore, who wasnt helped at all at times by lackluster defensive play around him?

The team made a three-year investment in him a year ago, and there are no legitimate indications hes being aggressively shopped. At least without a realistic, sure-fire upgrade on the market.

Both Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville have stated with confidence that Crawford has learned his lessons and will bounce back. But that didnt prevent the general manager from pursuing the 40-year-old Martin Brodeur, who holds virtually every career goaltending record and took the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup Final. Eventually, Brodeur re-signed with the only NHL team hes played for.

Having a chance to get a guy like that, hes a great goaltender, Crawford said Friday at Blackhawks Convention. But I cant really focus on that stuff. Ive got worry about what Im doing and how Im preparing myself. All that other stuff can just become a distraction for you.

Niklas Hjalmarssons name has been one thats come up in trade discussions for teams talking with Bowman. Its been associated with teams looking for veteran defensive help, including Edmonton and Ottawa.

Not really, Hjalmarsson responded when asked if any of the rumors affect him. I cant really do much about it or think about it too much. Its up to the management. I just try to control the things I can control. Thats never really bothered me.

That doesnt affect his focus at all?

No, he said, matter-of-factly.

That doesnt bother him?

No, Hjalmarsson shrugged, looking quite believable.

As for recent far-fetched reports of Dave Bolland being shipped to Vancouver in a package for Luongo, the newlywed smiled and said, next question.

What, he wouldnt mind being a teammate of the Sedin sisters, as he once called them?

Oh, there ya go, he smiled and laughed, not wanting to take the bait.

Trust the Rookie: Wendell Carter Jr. draws Opening Night start against Joel Embiid, Sixers

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USA TODAY

Trust the Rookie: Wendell Carter Jr. draws Opening Night start against Joel Embiid, Sixers

In a five-game span Wendell Carter Jr. saw preseason action against Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic and Myles Turner. The 19-year-old rookie had his share of expected ups and downs but performed well enough that Fred Hoiberg officially announced him a starter for the team’s season opener tomorrow night.

His reward for all that hard work? A matchup against All-Pro center Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers.

It’ll be an eye-opening experience for the Duke product, who just a year ago was readying himself for his first season of college basketball and a season-opening matchup against Elon. It’s safe to assume Embiid will pose a few more problems than did Phoenix center Tyler Seibring.

“Joel Embiid was one of my role models growing up,” Embiid said before practice Wednesday. “He was someone I always wanted to pattern my game after. Just to go up against him is a remarkable feeling. He’s a very physical player. He’s a very talented player. I’m going to be able to stack up and see what all I need to work on to last in this league.”

While it’s no easy task against a talent like Embiid, who was named All-NBA Second Team last season, Carter’s most important job will be staying out of foul trouble. Carter piggy-backed an impressive Summer League with a preseason that included averages of 7.0 points and 5.6 rebounds in 21.1 minutes. But those numbers also included 7.7 fouls per 48 minutes. He racked up 17 fouls in five games, and had at least three in each.

Embiid only went to the line five times in Tuesday’s season-opening loss to the Celtics, but that was primarily against Defensive Player of the Year candidate Al Horford. Embiid won’t face as much resistance against Carter, putting the pressure on the rookie to stay on the floor.

“He’s going to have to navigate that without using his hands,” Fred Hoiberg said. “We have to be all five aware. It’s just not a one-man problem with Embiid. We have to have great awareness of him and try and mix up coverages and hopefully make him take tough shots, knowing that he’s going to hit some of those. You just can’t get deflated when he does.’’

The decision was a mere formality – Bobby Portis will start at power forward – after the frontcourt combination played considerably better in the Bulls’ final two preseason games. Though Jabari Parker was initially slotted in at power forward following Lauri Markkanen’s elbow sprain, Portis’ impressive preseason forced Hoiberg’s hand. Portis averaged 17.0 points and 5.8 rebounds and shot 55 percent from the field in just 22.4 minutes.

“It’s all about combinations out there and we felt like Bobby gave us a great start with the way he was playing,” Hoiberg said. “And then we kind of changed things up with that second unit and put the ball in Jabari’s hands, so it was more that in trying to get guys out there with the right combinations.”

Lopez may have an expanded role if Carter gets into foul trouble early, while Parker will be the facilitator on a second unit that doesn’t have much in the way of a point guard. It’s anyone’s guess as to how the frontcourt will play out once Markkanen returns in roughly a month; if Portis and Carter continue playing well, Hoiberg could opt to keep them together on the second unit and put Lopez back in the starting lineup.

But for at least Opening Night – the Bulls also get Andre Drummond and the Pistons on Saturday – it’ll be the seventh overall pick getting his NBA feet wet with a matchup against arguably the best center in basketball. But’s it a role he’s earned, and on a Bulls defense looking for any sort of improvement, Carter is the player who can anchor it.

“His defense is always going to be important for us. He’s the guy that’s the anchor in that starting unit at the rim,” Hoiberg said, “and he’s done a really solid job of making perimeter guys taking contested shots when he gets switched off, or staying vertical at the rim and trying to make a big finish over the top of him, so yeah, again it’s a great challenge, great opportunity for Wendell.”

Matt Nagy gives update on the state of Khalil Mack's ankle

Matt Nagy gives update on the state of Khalil Mack's ankle

The Bears have seemingly dodged a bullet, for now. 

Following Tuesday's announcement that Khalil Mack would undergo further tests on the right ankle injury he sustained during Sunday's loss, Bears head coach had more optimistic news on Wednesday:

It could obviously get a lot worse than a day-to-day diagnosis, though not practicing on Wednesday might raise some eyebrows. 

It sounds like Mack is expected to be a go for Sunday's matchup with the Patriots, though as the Bears saw with the Dolphins' QB situation last week, things can change in a heartbeat.